Live shooting exercises, in which young soldier preparing for deployment in Kenya was killed, were ‘poorly planned’ court martial is told

Army training

A court martial has heard how live shooting exercises at an Army range in which a young soldier who was preparing for deployment in Kenya died, were often poorly planned.

Ranger Michael Maguire, of the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment, was among the soldiers who came under machine gun fire during the exercise during which the 21-year-old, from County Cork, Ireland, was shot in the forehead and killed.

Captain Jonathan Price, 32, now of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish, is accused of the manslaughter by gross negligence of Rgr Maguire through his failure to set up and supervise a safe exercise at the Castlemartin Training Area in Pembrokeshire in May 2012.

The prosecution has alleged that Capt Price failed to attend a recce of the range when preparing a Range Action Safety Plan (Rasp), that he placed targets too close together and failed to “deconflict” the two exercises.

Appearing alongside him in court was senior planning officer, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Bell, 45, who is accused of not reviewing or counter-signing the Rasp which Capt Price produced and failing to supervise or support him.

A third defendant, Warrant Officer Stuart Pankhurst, 40, who was supervising the exercise involving Rgr Maguire on Range 10A, is accused of failing to “express any caution or concern” despite having attended the recce and having knowledge of the extent of the adjacent shooting on Range 10B.

Giving evidence to the court martial in Bulford, Wiltshire, Retired Warrant Officer Sean Meaker, who was based at Castlemartin at the time of Rgr Maguire’s death, said there were “too many poor quality Rasps being submitted which should have not passed the proof reading stage within the author’s own unit.”

Defending Captain Price, junior counsel Fiona Edington suggested the witness’ briefing during the visit had given the soldiers the impression they only needed to produce one Rasp for the whole week. To which Mr Meaker replied: “If that’s how they left, it’s how they left,” adding: “It’s not how I put it across to them.”

The court also heard from Philip Barnes, who has since retired from the Army, who explained the week-long exercise would involve different types of training moving from fire teams, to sections and then the final platoon exercise.

He said he had been told by the staff at Castlemartin that only one Rasp needed to be completed for the whole week. This contradicted his previous training which said one for each separate exercise was required. 

All three defendants deny the charges and the trial before a board of seven senior officers continues.

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